Bigger, faster and more – what will 2007 bring?

What will 2007 bring for Huntingdonshire? More shops, more houses and faster bus journeys? Report by IAN MacKELLAR THE year 2007 is likely to be momentous for Huntingdonshire. Huntingdon will have its first crown court for several decades when the combin

What will 2007 bring for Huntingdonshire? More shops, more houses and faster bus journeys? Report by IAN MacKELLAR

THE year 2007 is likely to be momentous for Huntingdonshire.

Huntingdon will have its first crown court for several decades when the combined justice centre opens in the spring.

As well as re-introducing the (part-time) higher criminal court, it will provide a new home for the district's magistrates - currently in the 18th century town hall in Market Square - and the civil county court, now in an adapted office block beyond the ring road in George Street. The crown court will sit part-time, probably two weeks in four.

* HUNTINGDON will see most of the major development.

The £30million redevelopment of Huntingdon's George Street will continue.

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This includes re-vamped council offices, and the contra-flow bus lane along Walden Road to reduce journey times from St Neots, Buckden, Brampton and Hinchingbrooke.

The second phase of the George Street development, including new town centre housing and a new combined library and records office, will start this year but will take a while to complete.

A key idea is to improve Huntingdon's shops - re-develop Chequers Court, develop the "west of town centre" area around the police station and former Silent Channel site, maybe even the Anglian Water HQ site, and add adequate car parking - so people will shop in Huntingdon rather than Cambridge, Peterborough or Bedford.

Part of that retail development will come on stream in 2007, with the new phase one of the Chequers Court redevelopment in Chequers Walk. We cannot yet tell you which well-known retailer will occupy the flagship ultra-modern shop fronting the High Street, because the deal is not yet signed.

Phase two, which includes demolishing the old Government offices to make way for big new shops and, probably, a multi-storey car park, is likely to start within the year.

Then, still in the town centre, there is the replacement of Pathfinder House, Huntingdonshire District Council's crumbling 1960s spec-built headquarters.

The first phase is to move the council depot from Godmanchester. Building work is already progressing rapidly at Latham Road on the industrial estate off the A141, near the railway line. When complete, it will house about 100 staff - not only the refuse, recycling and street-cleaning teams, but also the control room for the district's 100-plus CCTV cameras and other council functions, such as printing.

Some council officers have already moved to the Grade II* listed Castle Hill House, adjacent to Pathfinder House. Others will go to the empty Godmanchester depot to enable contractors to start demolishing Pathfinder House to make way for four new linked office blocks. The whole process will take three years and cost £24million.

Still in Huntingdon, we expect a start of work to turn one of the town's landmarks, the 1930s water tower in Brampton Road, into a small state-of-the-art office complex.

Angry residents of Hartford Road in Huntingdon can expect to see new Huntingdonshire District Council proposals in the spring to expand the car park at Riverside Park.

But this time, the plans are expected to be part of a wider proposal to develop the area for leisure purposes and will therefore be much harder to resist.

ST IVES could see a decision at last on the future of the Corn Exchange and a start of work on pedestrianising Bridge Street in preparation for a bit of café society.

The August Bank Holiday weekend sees the prospect of 30,000 visitors to the town for the Inland Waterways Association's annual festival.

ST NEOTS developments include work on a £1million-plus scheme to provide a media industries centre in Eynesbury and a £700,000 community facility in Eaton Socon. Expect the town's new pedestrian/cyclist bridge to see the light of day and, possibly, the arrival of the first third of the town's promised £1million gift from Peter Rowley, who sold Loves Farm for the huge development (see New Homes, right).

RAMSEY should see further progress on the Northern Gateway project and possibly new plans from Luminus Group for re-development of the Grand Cinema site. Last year's proposals were rejected by planners.

AIRFIELD SITES will be a key issue. Brampton, which is due to close by 2011, could play home to more houses, an hotel and maybe research facilities. A decision on a possible Marshall Aerospace move to Wyton is unlikely during the year. The future of the Alconbury site, which has planning consent for a huge rail-linked freight distribution depot, will remain uncertain.

NEW HOMES: AT least 11,200 new homes are due to be built in Huntingdonshire between 2001 and 2021.

This year will see the start of two of the biggest new developments - about 1,200 new homes at each of North Bridge in west Huntingdon, adjacent to the A141 and Stukeley Road, and Loves Farm, east of the railway line at St Neots. Both developments are big enough to need their own primary schools.

WARBOYS will see waste tipping resume, much of the material hand-me-down rubbish from London. But the notorious "Cell 6" will be filled not with the hazardous waste fought against by residents, but by inert waste, following the acquisition of the site by the Lancashire-based Woodford Group.

After it has been stabilised the land can be reclaimed - Woodford's speciality - in a few years' time.

Nearby, the new wind farm at Tick Fen is due for completion.

TRANSPORT projects will include the £116million Huntingdon-Cambridge guided bus scheme and the £640million A14 Ellington-Fen Ditton improvement scheme, including a new southern bypass for Huntingdon.

A key component of that second scheme will be the demolition of the current A14 viaduct over the East Coast main line at Huntingdon station. But that is 10 years ahead.

The first task is for the Highways Agency to identify a preferred route later this year after the current consultation is over and publish detailed draft orders for a public inquiry.

Cambridgeshire County Council, Huntingdonshire District Council and South Cambs District Council would back the choice of the "orange route", the line originally consulted on in the spring of 2005 and successfully challenged in the Appeal Court by residents of the Offords.

However, with the cost rising from £490million in April, 2003 - only last year the Highways Agency said it was confident it could deliver for that price - by a further £150million, HDC is worried that the Government will back away from financing it.

With the guided bus, seen as a partial palliative to widening works on the A14, due to come into service in early 2009, this year will see the start of work to widen the old railway viaduct at St Ives and to lay the guideway from the town along the old railway line to Cambridge.

A 500-place park-and-ride facility at St Ives is scheduled for 2008. In the meantime, further work is likely on £6million bus priority measures in Huntingdon and St Ives, together with improved pedestrian and cycling facilities.

These may start earlier than expected as a result of a 30 per cent increase in Government grant.

Between Cambourne and Caxton, the newly-dualled stretch of the A428 is due to open in the autumn, and Papworth's new bypass will be open early in the year.

Also likely to emerge during the year are the first signs of a county council decision on how it would spend transport improvement funds generated by congestion charging in Cambridge.

Expect Council Tax bills to rise by five per cent in April.

HINCHINGBROOKE Hospital may see major changes, but you might not notice them unless you work there.

There will be public consultation on innovative plans that will keep A&E and general surgery in the district and it is hoped that maternity services will stay too. But many more patients will be treated in the community - in doctors' surgeries, health centres and in their homes - instead of at Hinchingbrooke, in a cost cutting exercise.

The primary care trust's new

children's centre at the hospital is due to open in the spring, releasing the Holly Ward facility for adult medical cases.